Interview with Commissioner Fish: Forest Park talks are “back on track”

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

Commissioner Nick Fish talks
Forest Park and “freak-outs”.
(Photos © J. Maus)

It’s been almost one year since citizen activist Frank Selker re-energized the issue of increased bicycle access in Forest Park. Since then his effort has sparked widespread momentum for the issue and now the City of Portland’s Bureau of Parks and Recreation has convened a committee to develop recommendations and move the issue forward.

However, last week two members of that committee made headlines when they voiced strong opposition to the idea.

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Commissioner to hold roundtable discussion on off-road biking in Portland parks

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward
City Council candidate Nick Fish-3.jpg

Commissioner Nick Fish
wants to open up the dialogue
on off-road biking.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Last month, rookie City Commissioner Nick Fish made his opinion of off-road biking clear. He told BikePortland that he was not satisfied with the current status quo of riding in the city and that he would work quickly to learn about the issue and seek more opportunities.

Now comes word from Fish’s office that on Monday of next week (4/6), he will hold an invite-only “informal roundtable discussion about off-road biking opportunities in Portland parks.” (It’s notable on the official invite that it didn’t mention Forest Park specifically, but that will surely be a hot point of conversation).

When asked about the meeting, Fish’s senior policy director Hannah Kuhn told us that, “the time seems right to have a more fundamental conversation” about off-road cycling.

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Commissioner Fish warms to more singletrack in Forest Park

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

“My interest is not in studying this to death, it’s seeing what we can actually do…I am committed to finding ways to significantly expand our current inventory of singletrack trails.”
— Nick Fish, Portland City Commissioner

The idea of mountain bike access in Forest Park has been an issue for Portlanders for over two decades. Local advocacy group, the Portland United Mountain Pedalers (PUMP) was founded over twenty years ago specifically to counter threats of bikes being prohibited from the park altogether (currently, bikes are allowed on all fire access roads and a .3 mile stretch of singletrack).

In recent years, the idea of adding more singletrack trails — or allowing bikes to ride on the many miles of existing hiking trails — has languished due to a variety of factors (that’s a whole other story entirely).

But recently, momentum has picked up for a new approach to the conversation: The League of American Bicyclists chastised Portland’s lack of urban off-road riding opportunities; the City of Portland Bureau of Transportation responded to that by officially adding a chapter on mountain biking to the update of their Bicycle Master Plan, citizen activists have stepped up their efforts, and fresh faces in City Hall bring the potential of a new perspective.

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Silver lining to Bike Republic snub; Bike rentals coming to Waterfront Park

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

Scenes like this might become
common in Waterfront Park
by this spring.
(Photo: Wheel Fun Rentals)

Back in August we reported that the former McCall’s restaurant site in Waterfront Park would become Portland’s first-ever, full-service bike commuter facility. The concept, proposed by Ken Nichols of Bike Republic, would have brought showers and lockers, a small retail bike shop, secure, long-term bike parking and a cafe to the site.

Unfortunately we were a bit premature on that story, and soon reported that the Parks Bureau cooled on Nichols’ idea and the whole thing fell through at the last minute.

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